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Is there something wrong with the way we think?

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Once again it’s been a bad few days for the UK’s banking industry. The sector’s already battered reputation has received another good mauling over the on-going LIBOR scandal and the resignation of HSBC’s chief compliance officer, David Bagley, following publication of a damning report alleging the bank may have inadvertently allowed the laundering of Mexican drug money.

I doubt I am alone in being deeply disillusioned at the levels of mismanagement that these events suggest at some of our largest and best known financial institutions – and all this at a time when we need our financial services industry to be performing at the top of its game if we are to dig ourselves out of our current the economic hole.Sbs

As I start to speculate about what’s gone wrong with the way these institutions are managed, my mind turns to well rehearsed arguments such as; inadequate regulation, a distorted approach to risk management and broken performance management systems driving profit at the cost of ethics. Whilst these factors no doubt all have their part to play in the continuing malaise, a distillation of evidence leads me to one simple conclusion; there is something profoundly broken about the way in which leaders and managers of these institutions solve problems and make decisions – in short, there is something wrong with the way in which they think.

It seems that well intentioned individuals are increasingly influenced, albeit unconsciously, by distorted models of what is normal and acceptable behaviour when making choices, that the pressure to take decisions quickly is impairing our ability to balance risks and benefits and perhaps the complexity of today’s financial products and the processes designed to support them has relegated effective, rigorous problem solving into the ‘too hard’ box with the consequence of some very, very costly mistakes.

Of course these recent examples even when added to the seemingly endless string of similar ‘bad management’ stories we have heard recently don’t prove that poor quality of thinking is endemic across the entire financial services industry, but what they do perhaps show is that poor thinking can break a career, as in the case of Messrs. Bob Diamond and David Bagley or perhaps even an entire organisation as is the case with Lehman Brothers in 2008.

We might expect that the ability to think clearly and effectively is the essential component of leadership and management. After all, how did these good people secure their elevated positions without the ability to appraise complex situations, solve problems, make decisions and manage risks and opportunities?  The evidence to support this view, however, is not encouraging. A recent study conducted by One Poll for the management consulting firm Kepner-Tregoe, gathered opinions from 502 UK-based senior managers and concluded that an over-reliance on the individual and a lack of involvement of those with relevant expertise and experience might partly account for this questionable performance when it comes to effective issue resolution.

Almost half (48%) of the executives surveyed, thought that critical decisions in their organisations were being made by individuals rather than by a leadership team. Half (50%) went on to say they believed ineffective problem solving was due to senior leaders failing to draw on internal experience or relying on decisions made by colleagues without experience. Alarmingly one in six (17%) described the approach of their organisation to problem solving as merely trial and error.

The idea that there is value in a more participative approach to problem solving and decision making is of course nothing new, but why should it emerge as the central theme in this recent survey?

Perhaps as the need for speed becomes ever more prevalent, the pressure on leaders to respond to issues with fast, intuitive, individual responses has never been greater. As the quantity and criticality of the problems solved and decisions taken by individuals alone increases, the inadequacy of this approach becomes exposed.

And so what’s the problem with relying in an individual leaders’s intuitive judgement? Surely this is why they are paid the big bucks? The clue here is to understand that our intuition is simply and only recognition. Faced with a situation we recognise, there will be value in our judgement and in very familiar situations, we might even be said to have developed expert intuition. The challenge comes when the issue that requires thought goes beyond our direct experience and this is where the mistakes are more likely to happen.

Psychologists tell us that the ideas we generate when wrestling with problems and decisions can be thought of as nodes in a vast network called associative memory in which each idea is linked to many others. When an idea forms, it does not simply trigger one other idea, it instantly activates many ideas which in turn activate many more in an exponential explosion of thought. As only a very few of these activated ideas register in our conscious minds, we cannot be certain of how germane the set of ideas is that shapes our choices or offers insights as to the likely cause of problems. Never wanting to be short of something to say, we humans have intuitive opinions about almost everything we encounter and these opinions are influenced by these unconscious ideas activated within our associative memory, whether directly relevant or not.  In the immortal words of Arnold H. Glasgow; “The fewer the facts the stronger the opinions.”

As we make our individual judgements, we are not consciously aware of whether our intuition is referencing solid experience or some tenuously related incident but we will effortlessly and possibly incorrectly come up with an answer, our intuition will resolve any ambiguity, and the really scary part is that you won’t even know it.

Might this go some way to explain why there is a felt need for wider participation and involvement with problem solving and decision as highlighted in this recent survey? The act of ‘getting the team together’ when a leader encounters an issue that goes beyond his or her experience does not merely ensure that more directly relevant experience is brought to bear.  The thoughtful analysis of the situation slows the whole process down, ensuring a more holistic view is taken of a situation, the possibility of decisions being biased by unconscious influences is reduced and the felt need to immediately jump into action is resisted. It couldn’t be this simple, could it?

Sam Bodley-Scott
Principal & Director of Strategic Consulting
Kepner-Tregoe Inc.
WWW.kepner-tregoe.com

Business

Are bots eating your Facebook budget?

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Are bots eating your Facebook budget? 1

By Mike Townend, founding CMO of Beaconsoft Ltd

In an increasingly digitised world, social media has arguably become the most powerful and influential tool at the disposal of businesses, both large and small.

With more than 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide today, it is no surprise that many companies view it as an unparalleled means of marketing their products and services to new and otherwise unreachable audiences, as well as an opportunity to better understand consumer demand and habits.

Facebook is often regarded as one of the very best social media platforms for marketers – not least because of its targeted digital advertising service – but many firms using it may not realise just how much of their budget could be being wasted due to ad fraud.

Numerous studies suggest digital ad fraud affects between 10% and 60% of all types of digital advertising, with businesses of every size falling prey to so-called ‘bots’ – automated programs used by scammers to undercut deals, divert visitors or steal clicks.

But how do bots work, how might they be affecting businesses’ Facebook budgets, data and analytics, and what can be done to combat them?

How do bots work?

A report published by security firm Imperva found that bots – both good and bad – are responsible for 52% of all web traffic, while a separate study by White Ops concluded that as much as 20% of websites that serve ads are visited exclusively by fraudulent click bots.

In simple terms, a click bot is specially designed to carry out click fraud – in other words, the bot poses as a legitimate visitor to a webpage and automatically clicks on pay-per-click [PPC] ads, buttons or other types of hyperlinks.

Their purpose is to trick a platform or service – in this case, Facebook – into believing that real users are interacting with the webpage, app or ad in question.

Usually, bots will not just click a link once; they will click it over and over again to give the impression that the webpage is receiving a high level of traffic.

Why is this a problem?

The presence of click bots on Facebook is particularly problematic because they can effectively drain a business’ online marketing budget without many of its targeted ads reaching real users who might have a genuine interest.

There are a number of reasons why click fraud could be used – for example, competitors may employ a ‘click farm’ – a group of low-paid workers or bots hired to click on paid advertising links – or organised criminals may have found a way to profit from clicking on a business’ links.

In other cases, apps and software are created to collect the payout for a company’s ads, often with the help of bots.

Considering the average cost per click in the UK is £0.78, according to Hubspot, with some ad campaigns for popular key phrases running at £10 per click, or even more, it is clear to see how easily this could mount up if a firm’s budget were to be hijacked by scammers.

How might bots affect data and analytics?

Negative click bots have the potential to produce skewed analytics from Facebook advertising campaigns.

Because many businesses are unable to distinguish between fake clicks and legitimate ones, the data that they collect can lead to false conclusions and decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business. For example, firms may choose to overspend or under-invest on a campaign based on findings that are substantially erroneous.

Businesses must be confident that they are making sound decisions that are informed by reliable data and analytics – and fortunately, there is a way that they can do this.

Taking the fight to the bots

There are a number of methods that firms can use to identify bot clicks, some more straightforward than others.

Frequently checking Facebook analytics for irregularities in traffic that could be attributable to bots can make this task considerably easier.

Specific things to monitor include the average number of page views, the average session time, and the source of referrer traffic – if there are any glaring anomalies in the data, bots could be the source.

Big spikes in page views caused by a higher number of visits than usual can also be indicative of bot activity and are especially dangerous given their propensity to slow down the page for genuine visitors.

Once malicious traffic has been identified, steps can then be taken in blocking it at source, although this is not a simple process and requires technical knowledge and know-how.

After removing negative click bots, companies can take comfort in knowing they are optimising their campaigns by gaining accurate insights that help to increase efficiency, lower the cost per visit, and improve return on investment.

Conclusion

Defeating the bots that are impairing a business’ performance on Facebook is by no means easy, and it requires time and effort to keep malicious traffic under constant surveillance.

Having experts on your side who are well versed in identifying and removing instances of click fraud can help to turn the tide in the battle against bots and ultimately allow a company to make big savings on its advertising spend.

Firms not only owe it to themselves, but to their customers also, to knock these harmful and disruptive programs offline for good.

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Business

Advanced Acquiring: How can omnichannel merchants optimise all payment needs through one provider?

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Advanced Acquiring: How can omnichannel merchants optimise all payment needs through one provider? 2

By Marc Docherty, Head of UK Acquiring / Large – Strategic Business, Ingenico, a Worldline brand

Today’s consumers are constantly moving, buying across multiple touchpoints, devices and channels, thus driving significantly greater transactional volume. Against this backdrop, in order to capture and harness the market potential, omnichannel remains an essential strategy for merchants while conducting business operations.

Driven by consumer demands regarding a richer, more personalised and seamless buying journey, ease of use and frictionless transactions have always defined the terms for omnichannel success. However unsurprisingly, payments processing is not always at the forefront of merchants’ minds, hence, more often than not, businesses find it difficult to capture the fundamental importance of a seamless experience.

As a result, they risk not only alienating and losing customers and leaving revenue on the table, but also inefficient management of their costs by missing important savings on acquiring fees. It is therefore prudent for businesses to consider how best they can provide a frictionless experience if they want to remain competitive and ensure conversions in this increasingly fast-paced world.

Understanding how payments processing works

Innovation and efficiency in payment processing is often focused on the transaction itself, helping merchants conduct sales and process payments faster and through more convenient platforms, such as online and mobile. All these transactions, irrespective of the channel used or their value, might take only seconds to complete, however behind the scenes there are many different industry players (including an acquirer, an issuer, the payment gateway, the card network and the merchant), working together towards the same goal: making sure the payment process is flawless, secure and fast.

In theory, the payment should pass from each party without the customer ever noticing, however with a multitude of different providers at each stage, this process can be prone to errors or extra time added to the transaction, leaving shoppers with a disappointing payments experience hence less likely to return for another sale.

Much the same as their consumer counterparts, merchants also appreciate seamless experiences, frictionless integration and having everything in one placeThey want to focus on their core business without any restrictions or having to worry about declines, chargebacks or interchange feesAs such, consolidating all this information in a single, comprehensive view will be a key asset for merchants, providing them with full visibility over their processes.

Offering the most relevant payment methods at the checkout is key

Local and alternative payment methods have enormous potential to drive greater value to merchants not only by expanding reach but also by strengthening the merchant – customer relationship. According to findings from a recent Capgemini report, online retail growth, coupled with the rapid adoption of transparent payment experiences and alternative payment methods will continue to drive non-cash transaction momentum, which is expected to reach 1.1 trillion by 2023.

Yet, while accepting a wide but relevant range of payment options at checkout will drive shopping enthusiasm and maintain consumer loyalty, this can add different complexity levels to the checkout process, depending on several factors, including performance, security, design, the merchant’s business size and geographical reach. Add targeted marketing programmes, product development and delivery strategies, return policies, risk and fraud management to the priorities list for merchants and surviving the long road ahead might easily become daunting.

That’s why, instead of trying to do it all by themselves, merchants should make it a top priority to partner with a competitive acquiring provider who can do this for them, ensuring the balancing act between security, flexibility, frictionless payments and speed.

By working with a partner that is acquirer agnostic and understands both business requirements and the importance of providing operational excellence, merchants can benefit from cost savings for each transaction with the different payment methods they offer. Furthermore, by working with a single acquirer better reconciliation for merchants will be achieved, thus ensuring faster payouts.

A full-service solution to rule them all

With coverage and expertise in over 120 countries, we are perfectly placed to assist businesses in delivering their expansion strategy in their home market or across borders. Our Advanced Acquiring full-service solution is a modular offering that addresses merchants’ needs for a more unified experience, including acceptance, payment gateway and acquiring.

What better way to expand geographical reach and boost revenues than by offering the most relevant payment methods for your target markets, while at the same time improving cash management with some of the fastest payouts on the market and keeping track of transactions and settlements into one unified omnichannel reporting solution which covers all your payments needs?

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Motivate Your Management Team

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A management team, typically a group of people at the top level of management in an organization, is a team of people in the top level of managerial leadership of a business or an organization. It may consist of one person at the top level or more than one person at the top level. In this article, we are going to talk about what it takes to become a successful manager of a company and the different types of managers that can be found.

Team members will usually work in teams of two or three people. They will work together to accomplish a specific goal that the organization has set for them. These goals and the ways to reach them vary. Sometimes a management team will work in teams to achieve the same goal but in different ways. Sometimes they will work in teams to solve a particular problem.

When a team begins working, they will usually meet for the first time at their office building or another place where they will gather. They will be given a specific mission statement that they will be working towards. There will usually be meetings on a regular basis so that the team can discuss what they have done so far. If there is anything that needs to be worked out, this meeting will occur to ensure that all questions have been answered.

When it comes to meeting deadlines, there are often things that the team members will need to do in order to meet their deadline. They will have to come up with the proper solutions. Once they have done this, the next thing that needs to be done is to ensure that the other members of the team are aware of what the solution is.

Sometimes, the team members will meet at different times. This is very common for people who will have different duties and who are not always available at the same time. They can meet at random times but it is very rare for there to be meetings that occur during the night. Sometimes these meetings are held after lunch and sometimes they happen after dinner.

When the team members meet, they will need to be organized. They will need to take all of the necessary items and papers to the meeting and not leave any behind. The meeting will begin with a presentation that will be made by the team leaders that will describe what they have done so far.

After this presentation, the team members will then have to sit down with the other team members to discuss what they have discussed. This is often a very productive way to get everyone talking about what they have accomplished so far.

To be a good manager, you must be able to organize yourself and your team. This is also necessary in order for you to be able to motivate your team.

One of the ways that you can motivate your team members is by encouraging them to get things done that they want to do. By doing this, they will be able to get excited about what they are working on. The excitement that they will feel will motivate them to work even harder and to complete the task as soon as possible.

Another way that you can motivate your team members is to give them rewards. In this case, they will know that there is something for doing a great job. They will know that if they have good performance, there will be a reward for their hard work.

It is also important for you to provide support to your team members. by helping them find jobs and making sure that they are able to find employment. This will encourage them to be self-motivated and to perform better on their jobs.

When you provide support to your team members, they will feel valued and respected. This will allow them to feel as though they have an employer who is willing to put in a lot of effort in order to help them get what they want out of their jobs.

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